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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Local lad recounts first day flying solo over England

James Rogers, son of a pioneer Spokane shoe merchant, sent a letter from “someplace in England” describing the exhilaration and terror of learning to be a World War I flyboy.

He said that he had been training at the aerodrome with his instructor and had just finished making six or seven practice landings.

“I began to feel pretty good about myself, for they were all pretty good and I had complete control,” he wrote. “Well, we landed out in the middle of the field and stopped dead. The honorable instructor turned ‘round and looked at me rather queerly.”

The instructor said, “Go on up, keep the wings level, don’t put too much bank on the turns, make one circuit and land.” Then he climbed out.

In other words, Rogers was going to fly solo for the first time.

“I was trembling in my boots; I felt just as Columbus must have felt when he started across the Atlantic. I felt just as I did when I first tried to dance.”

He took off on a wobbly flight. “The fellows below were watching and they scattered from under like a bunch of rabbits. All I could do was to waggle the joystick aimlessly.”

But he regained control, made a circuit and made a safe landing.

“When I got out I could hardly stand up, and was the object of congratulations, being the first one of our flight to go solo. I am still more or less ‘pea green,’ but am tremendously elated.”

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